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7/22/2008
02:51 PM
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GM, Power Companies Join To Make Plug-In Vehicles Work

The automaker wants to be leading the pack when electric cars reach the nation's roads.

General Motors on Tuesday said it plans to collaborate with the Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit research group funded by the electric utility industry, to help bring plug-in electric automobiles to market.

Raising its bet on electric vehicles -- exemplified by the company's commitment to the Chevrolet Volt and Saturn Vue -- General Motors seeks to participate in the development of the technical standards necessary to ensure grid availability and compatibility when plug-in cars reach the nation's roads.

GM, the EPRI, and the participating utility companies will work together to ensure that charging electric vehicles is safe, market plug-in vehicles to the public, and solicit the support of policy makers.

"Together with EPRI and the utility companies, we can transform automotive transportation as we know it, and get our nation and the world past oil dependence -- and heading toward a future that is electric," said Jon Lauckner, GM VP of global program management, in a statement. "This group is taking significant steps toward making electric vehicles a reality and in helping our customers enjoy the tremendous benefits these vehicles will provide."

While Japanese automakers have led in the development of alternative-fuel vehicles, GM and its U.S.-based competitors, stung by reliance on large vehicles with poor fuel efficiency at a time of skyrocketing oil prices, are scrambling to catch up.

This latest public declaration by GM of commitment to plug-in hybrids and the infrastructure to support electric cars comes a year after Google and Pacific Gas & Electric, an EPRI member, demonstrated the viability of plug-in hybrid vehicles and vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, bi-directional electric power sharing using a modified Toyota Prius.

V2G technology, if and when it becomes available, will allow consumers to sell electric power -- ideally gathered using solar panels -- stored in their cars at times of high demand and price, then recharge at times of low demand and price, profiting as a result. PG&E studies suggest consumers could earn somewhere between several hundred and several thousand dollars annually this way.

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